Founded in 1944 during World War II as Midwest Research Institute, the organization's initial mission was to find a way to convert the ammonium nitrate military ordnance plants in Galena, Kansas, Parsons, Kansas, DeSoto, Kansas and El Dorado, Arkansas to peaceful uses of creating fertilizer. Among the nine founders was Kenneth A. Spencer who would make a fortune from the Jayhawk Plant in Galena. Spencer would be chairman of the Institute from 1954 to 1957 and donated money for the Kenneth A. Spencer Laboratories Building and the Spencer Auditorium at the Institute.
It was located initially in the former Westport, Missouri City Hall at 40th Terrace and Pennsylvania. That building was torn down in 1955. It is currently in a complex on the banks of Brush Creek facing the Nelson Art Gallery adjacent to University of Missouri - Kansas City and the headquarters of Russell Stovers candy.
MRIGlobal performs research in the areas of National Defense, Health Sciences, Agriculture & Food Safety, Engineering, Environment, Information Technology, Energy, Biological Sciences, and Analytical chemistry. The purpose of MRIGlobal is to provide solutions through scientific research, technology development, and technical services for the benefit of government, industry, and the public.
- Coating process for M&M Candies permitting the coating of 3,300 pounds of chocolate centers every hour (1950s)
- Soluble coffee for J.A. Folger a forerunner of auto drip coffeemaker (1950s)
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (managed since its start in 1977 as MRIGlobal is part of the Alliance for Sustainable Energy) (1970s)
- Maintaining the National Cancer Institute Repository (since the 1980s)
- Development of a thermoelectric cooling system for flight personnel and astronauts (1990s)
- Ethanol conversion process for the entire corn plant (cob, stalk and leaves—not just the kernels) (in conjunction with NREL and DuPont) (2000s)
- Advanced air sampler to detect trace levels of DNA from anthrax spores (2000s)
- "Search KU Finding Aids". Ead.diglib.ku.edu. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
- "Index". Westporthistorical.org. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
- "History brochure". MRIGlobal. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Twiddy, David (March 1, 2001). "Midwest Research Institute changes name to MRIGlobal". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved March 1, 2001.